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Why Is a Rack Called a Rack?

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Why is a rack called a rack? 

——Robert Patterson, Kingston, Ontario

The word “rack” has about two dozen definitions, from destruction, to a scud of clouds, to a cut of juicy ribs, to a most buoyant part of the female anatomy capitalized on by the “restaurant” Hooters. My favorite definition, and the one that seems most apropos, is that from Ambrose Bierce. In his Devil’s Dictionary he said a rack was “An argumentative implement formerly much used in persuading devotees of a false faith to embrace the living truth.” Alternately, we might consider the first definition from the Oxford American Dictionary, which says a “rack” is “a framework for hanging things on.” That sorta makes sense, but whatever. Gear Guy has spoken!


This Gear Guy question appeared in Rock and Ice issue 160 (June 2007).


Got a question? Email: rockandicegearguy@gmail.com


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